On its face, Double Negative’s latest record, a split 7″ with a Brooklyn thrash band called Battletorn that’s already trudged out some five or six dozen minute-long crossover blasts, is utterly insignificant. After all, two of the Raleigh hardcore quartet’s three tracks were previously laid to tape for last year’s similarly short Raw Energy EP. What’s more, it was released as part of a 7″ mail-order series from Volcom, a California clothing company that has its own stage on the Warped Tour. Scene foul, right? Your average hardcore listener, then, has no reason to hunt down one of these 500 pieces of wax.

Actually, he does.

Double Negative’s debut LP, The Wonderful and Frightening World of Double Negative, and its three-track follow-up 7″, Raw Energy, easily looked the part of modern classics with their Swans-meets-the-Third Reich artwork and top-tier support from the Southeast’s finest punk labels, No Way and Sorry State. But Double Negative never relied on bold print and label hype to make an essential record. Cleaning up Raw Energy‘s tracks “Outstanding Achievements in the Fields of Excellence” and “Excited About Myself,” engineer and longtime NCHC veteran Mike Dean captures the band at its tightest yet. Layers of guitar feedback aren’t completely overbearing. The drums are far from the tinny wash of Raw Energy‘s title track. The vocals are even close to being decipherable. “Emergency Room,” appearing for the first time, is equal parts heavy and hasty. It’s closer to Bad Brains than Discharge, and Kevin Collins’ vocals are more than a little reminiscent of his recently reunited ’90s indie rock outfit, Erectus Monotone.

It sounds great. Then comes guitarist Scott Williams, wielding his guitar like a battle-ax, jamming some form of post-op fuckery into the mix. Deep drones stop “Outstanding… ” mid-riff. “Emergency Room” trails into faraway screams and artificial record hiss. “Excited About Myself” pits vocalist Collins against himself, layering his discongruous highs at different points and pitches. Double Negative toyed with post-production techniques before, but these are the most apparent and essential ploys yet.